Maternal immune status in pregnancy is related to offspring’s immune responses and atopy risk


  • Edited by: Hans-Uwe Simon

Dr. Irina Lehmann, UFZ, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Environmental Immunology, Permoserstrasse 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany.
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To cite this article: Herberth G, Hinz D, Röder S, Schlink U, Sack U, Diez U, Borte M, Lehmann I. Maternal immune status in pregnancy is related to offspring’s immune responses and atopy risk. Allergy 2011; 66: 1065–1074.


Background:  The influence of maternal immune responses in pregnancy on children’s immune competence and the development of atopic diseases later in life are poorly understood. To determine potential maternal effects on the maturation of children’s immune system and resulting disease risks, we analysed immune responses in mother–child pairs in a prospective birth cohort study.

Methods:  Within the Lifestyle and Environmental factors and their Influence on Newborns Allergy risk (LINA) study, concentrations of Th1/Th2/Th17 and inflammatory cytokines/chemokines as well as IgE were measured in phytohemagglutinin and lipopolysaccharide stimulated maternal blood in the 34th week of gestation and in corresponding children’s blood at birth and 1 year after (n = 353 mother–child pairs). Information on atopic outcomes during the first year of life was obtained from questionnaires.

Results:  Concentrations of inflammatory markers, excepting TNF-α, were manifold higher in cord blood samples compared with maternal blood. Th1/Th2 cytokines were lower in children’s blood with a Th2 bias at birth. Maternal inflammatory parameters (MCP-1, IL-10, TNF-α) in pregnancy showed an association with corresponding cytokines blood levels in children at the age of one. High maternal IgE concentrations in pregnancy were associated with increased children’s IgE at birth and at the age of one, whereas children’s atopic dermatitis (AD) was determined by maternal AD.

Conclusions:  Maternal inflammatory cytokines during pregnancy correlate with children’s corresponding cytokines at the age of one but are not related to IgE or AD. While maternal IgE predicts children’s IgE, AD in children is only associated with maternal disease.